11/15/2012 3:00:00 PM School Board hears presentation on football, expected to make final decision this Monday
Resident Rick Wallace, who has been coaching a Switzerland County team in a league for younger players in Madison and who is one of the driving forces behind bringing football here, talks with the school board at Monday’s meeting.
Members of the Switzerland County School Board listened to various presentations and input from the community at a special open meeting that was held on Monday night in the high school cafeteria. The board is expected to decide at its meeting on Monday whether or not to move forward with the implementation of a football program here.
The Switzerland County School Board held a special open meeting on Monday night in the high school cafeteria to hear presentations and gather information about the possibility of beginning a tackle football program in the school system.
School Board President Jim Phipps welcomed the crowd of approximately 100 residents and students who attended the meeting, and announced that there would be a series of presentations, followed by a time for public questions and comments.
Opening the meeting was school board member Wayne Daugherty, who was the first coach ever of football at Milan High School when it started its program several decades ago. He was one of the school board representatives to the football exploration committee that Jim Phipps had appointed last month.
The committee recently traveled over to Gallatin County High School to talk with school officials and coaches there about how they went about starting its program eight years ago.
Wayne Daugherty said that Gallatin County officials said that one of the reasons that they started football was that they were seeing parents taking students from Gallatin County and enrolling them in neighboring schools that had football programs. Since schools are given educational money based on enrollment, school officials knew that implementing football would help keep students there.
"We've lost a number of students from here," Wayne Daugherty said. "That's not a large number, I don't think that's been a large number. We haven't lost anyone to Madison, but South Dearborn and Lawrenceburg are the nearest schools where we've been losing a few students."
Wayne Daugherty said that in comparing the Switzerland County situation to Gallatin County, he felt as though the situation here was better in starting a program.
"We're far ahead of them as far as starting football because we already have the field, we have lights, we have bleachers, we have facilities. When we reconstructed the gym back 10 years ago, our locker rooms, at that time, the architects told us that they were 'football accessible'. I know they converted a classroom into a weight room, and we already have a weight room. Gallatin County has no lights and very few bleachers. I think our facility is really in good shape. Over the past few years we've taken steps to make that grass grow."
One of the challenges in implementing football will be working out how football, boys soccer, and girls soccer all share the same "game field". Architectural drawings shown at Monday's meeting laid out where football and soccer practice fields would be located on existing school property.
Wayne Daugherty also addressed another big issue.
"This board is concerned about being able to finance this," he said. "They (Gallatin County) presented Superintendent Jones and Principal Goewert with paperwork on how they went about funding it. That's going to be a primary thing for us right here."
High School Principal Gregg Goewert was next to speak, sharing his plan for the implementation of the program over the next few years.
"This is my 20th year in education, and every school I've been at has been a football school," Gregg Goewert said. "Coming here, football is something that has been talked about in the community and talked about pretty immediately with the board. It appears that there's a lot of support for it. A lot of members on staff who are teachers who, for that matter, have qualifications to coach the sport."
Principal Goewert said that everyone wants to talk about the who, what, where, when, and why and those sorts of issues; and on Monday night he began with 'why'.
"As a principal, you want to see students involved in school, and so we did a little study at the beginning of school this year, and we had 24 athletes that were boys who were on the boys cross country and the boys soccer team. If you count the two managers and one athletic trainer, we had 27 boys that were involved out of 231 boys, that's like 10-percent," the principal said. "That was a shock to me, again coming from mostly football schools, but that started even more of a conversation from me, 'What do we need to do to get more boys involved in school?' 'How do we go about building up a school culture, a school spirit where we're very proud to be a Pacer, and students are excited and wanting to talk about pep assemblies and getting fired up?'"
He said that it was his goal to address a student interest that he said had been brought to him by the students themselves. He said that boys in grades 8-11 were surveyed, and more than 100 boys indicated that they wanted to play football; and others indicated that they wanted to cheer and do things like sing the National Anthem and be a part of Friday night football.
Principal Goewert said that he had broken down an implementation plan in terms of what needed to be done in order for Switzerland County to field a team beginning next fall; and then adding to that in the coming years until the program was fully implemented and facilities were all in place.
To pay for the program, a plan has been devised to take funds from the physical education budget; the school's general fund; and the school's capital projects fund.
In the first year, the 'game field' would host all middle school and high school soccer and football games, as well as the possibility of implementing band field competitions.
Gregg Goewert said that some of the first priorities would be to establish a practice field for soccer, showing the audience an overhead view of the existing school property. There would also be two practice fields for football located between the student parking lot and the administration building; and the band practice area would be in the student parking lot.
He also pointed out some new construction on the west side of the existing game field.
"One of the biggest priorities is right here," Principal Goewert pointed out. The restrooms, concession, and laundry room. We feel in our opinion that's absolutely a necessity and absolutely has to happen in the first year, so as we host some events, people have the opportunity to use the restrooms and concessions and a laundry area right there in that proximity and that location."
Principal Goewert also said that the existing storage shed at the west end would need to be expanded in order to house track and football practice equipment. He also showed the audience where potential entrance gates would be located.
In the second year, Gregg Goewert said that there is a need to address an area where there are currently three portable classrooms located near the track entrance. In that area, an expansion of weight room facilities would occur.
"In 2014, with CPF dollars (Capital Project Fund) we would need to address the issue of the weight room, a wrestling room, a fitness area/weight room, and locker rooms," he said. "The portables that exist would serve as locker rooms, changing area, storage area for football for the first year. We could survive with that for the first year. There are no restrooms in those portables. There's no running water or anything like that....In 2014 we'd like to see some type of a permanent structure located right there. It might have to be three- or four-stories because of the space that's there."
In the third year, bleachers would be addressed, because in the timeline that would be the first varsity season that the school would play.
Then the fourth year would address the field itself.
"In the final stage, because there is so much cost to seeding and aerating - a lot of money," Gregg Goewert said. "In the studies I've done, field turf pays for itself in a matter of seven or eight years. Field turf is what the Colts play on, it's what the Patriots play on. Up north where I came from, East Noble, Homestead, your rural schools and even your little bit more affluent schools have moved to that because it saves a considerable amount of money."
In the last year of his proposal, the school would also develop a tennis program, building courts on the school property, with girls tennis in the spring and boys tennis in the fall.
The cost for the first year of the program?
"What we're looking at is probably around $300,000 to start a football program," Principal Goewert said. "That's everything. That's all the field goal posts for the practice fields. That's this restroom concession building for year one. That's the two sections of bleachers at the end of the field. That's some money left in there for irrigation, etc. That's our number that we're looking at."
Rick Wallace, who helped start and is now the head coach of the varsity wrestling program, told that board that the youth league program that Switzerland County kids have been participating in with the help of the Madison Parks Department has been very successful.
"We had 60 boys come out and 28 cheerleaders," Rick Wallace told the school board. "So even with little teams like we had, we still involved 88 kids."
Rick Wallace said that parents and other volunteers conducted bake sales and had sign sales in order to support the program, and told the school board that once a final decision is made to move forward with a school program, then supporters can go to corporate sponsors to raise larger sums of money.
School attorney Ron Hocker developed a "pledge form" that supporters can take out to individuals and businesses to help begin the process of raising funds. The pledge form is specific in that it doesn't tie the school board to approving the program; and only obligates the person signing the pledge form if the school corporation does create a school program.
Rick Wallace also spoke of the type of student that the football program could help and attract.
"We grew together as teams," he said. "We've had many success stories. We've had one young athlete had a troubled background, and the caseworker called us and said that things had really changed and that things looked good....His grades came up, his discipline came up. His self-respect came up; and all of that has to do with him having something to do at school to drive for. Up until the little league football program, there was nothing that he was interested in. He was just wandering through life, in and out of trouble. Now he has something to fight for and keep good grades and keep out of trouble."
Superintendent Mike Jones discussed funding, and said that the school system here does come from a strong position, whether it be the general fund or other parts of the budget.
"I don't think something like that happens by chance, I know it's because previous superintendents and the board has made some good decisions in how they've spent their money," Mike Jones said. "They've been careful to try and build up a good general fund balance. School budgets are very complicated. There's many different sources of the funding. There's many different components of a school budget."
Mike Jones said that there are other things out in the community such as volunteer labor and others pitching in to help that could lower projected costs. He said that Gallatin County and other schools benefit from having booster clubs, which could be another source of revenue.
"We do know that there will be several different effects on the budget from football," the superintendent said. "We know that coaching expenses and some of the start up costs, no doubt, will be asked to come from the general fund; and listening to what Mr. Goewert said, and Mr. Todd, and listening to what they said over at Gallatin County, we would hope to recoup some of that from the enrollment that we would expect to gain from enrollment."
There were several comments from the audience, including making sure that students were properly protected from injury; how adding football impacts girls sports teams in terms of the number of sports offered to each gender; if adding a sport in light of the schools being given lower than expected grades from the State Board of Education is not timely, and instead should those funds be used for general education rather than an extra curricular sport.
People voiced their opinions that they felt that adding football would greatly enhance the county's chances of getting families to locate here and become parts of the community in the future; and that football may give some students a reason to stay in school and keep up their grades so that they can remain eligible to play.
The school board took all of the information into account and all of the comments under advisement; and will now try and decide if a football program will be started here; and if it is, at what rate will it be implemented. Could the program start in the middle school and grow into the high school; or could there be a high school "C" team in the fall of 2013?
The school board is expected to make a decision at its meeting this Monday night, November 19th, at 5 p.m. in the administration building. That meeting will be open to the public.